Profiling the Red Bull Salzburg striker that elite clubs are already chasing
Who is Benjamin Šeško?
In many ways, Benjamin Šeško personifies the Red Bull Salzburg model. His style and skillset, which is analysed below, is typical of Salzburg’s ideals, while his pathway to the brink of a breakout season is representative of how Salzburg run their arm of the Red Bull network.
Šeško was signed for €2.5 million as a 16-year-old from NK Domžale, one of Slovenia’s most proficient talent-proudicing clubs. He was immediately placed at FC Liefering, the Red Bull owned-and-run club in Austria’s second division that serves as base camp.
And it was at Liefering, like so many Salzburg-developed players before him, that Šeško first caught the eye. After a season of integration, he exploded in the 2020/21 campaign, scoring 21 goals in 29 games. That season included a six-game run in which he scored 13 goals.
Unsurprisingly, Šeško was bumped up to the first-team squad at Salzburg the following summer. Again, it was another season of integration as the club eased him into first-team football, executing the final part of their succession plan. He played just under 1,000 minutes in the league, with the likes of Karim Adeyemi and Brendan Aaronson – both of whom have made moves to Borussia Dortmund and Leeds United respectively this summer – carrying much of the load.
After a season providing a supporting act to the Salzburg attack, the now-19-year-old striker is primed for the next step, be it as a lead in the Austrian Champions’ ensemble. There is also a strong possibility that he skips that step entirely, making the leap to the higher end of a top-five league in the coming weeks. Already off the mark for the new season, Šeško’s explosive goal threat is something many are unsurprisingly alert to this summer.
Benjamin Šeško's style of play
Šeško complies with the demands of Salzburg’s diamond with great ease. Particularly last season, when combinations through the middle were much more common, he rotated lanes, depths, dropped to pin spaces beyond him, and sustained the structural balance effortlessly.
His control of the ball, however, is a bit mixed. He’s often been subject to many aerial take-downs, which are sometimes executed gracefully but will more often than not run away from him. This can be said for his weight of touch against heavier passes as he doesn’t sort his body or feet correctly to absorb the pace of the ball.
This obviously limits his ability to be an effective hold-up player, as is further emphasised in physical battles, aerially and on the ground. Whilst he has the physical stature to outmuscle opponents, he could do more to lean into them and spread himself to ensure greater resistance.
It’s thus no great surprise that he dismisses opportunities to improvise as a player to bounce passes off when there are few other solutions available. It’s following turnovers where he tends to be at his most positive and creative with his use of the ball to evade pressure and try to help stabilise progression.
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Aerially, he has a huge leap. However, the Slovenian suffers from not engaging in those prior physical tussles and, most significantly, failing to judge the flight of the ball far too often. Even when he finally gets his position right, it’s not difficult to nudge him off course.
Whilst he can be overly one-footed, Šeško has a good knack for evading pressure in tight spaces with sharp, short changes of direction. Sometimes he uses these touches to spin out wide and burst down the line, as the flanks are where his touches are offered the most security and its where he can best stretch his legs with the ball.
It’s in the centre where he struggles the most, even when there is open space to exploit. His head dips too quickly without ever resurfacing to scan for options, so he’ll shift the ball very close to feet without having the awareness to know what to set himself up for. His high centre of gravity means that these small touches are frequently slow and stunted, getting quickly caught under him, which results in unintentionally-skewed forward touches that then limit what he can do next.
Šeško can be so comfortable laying the ball off first-time but he doesn’t always deflect pace as well as is ideal. It’s in his passing more so where you see his lack of blind-sided awareness, as he takes over play without thinking to scan for the whole array of options, which can lead to dangerous overloads going unexploited.
He’s far more vigilant in short crossing positions. He always ensures he’s scanned for options, but the end ball tends to be a safe cutback as he avoids risking the more delicate ball into the middle, even when it bears the most potential.
What helps Šeško offer effectively off the ball is how well he holds his halfspace-based position, and recovers to it so quickly following unfound runs. It can often take out much of the hard work of his positioning, and is something, alongside his blistering pace, that Matthias Jaissle appears to be trying to take advantage of a step further so far this season. This is also great for box positioning, where he has previously fallen short, be it due to a lack of awareness for teammates or, more notably, an inability to attack the right channel as a solo threat.
He’s been guilty last season of making runs for crosses that misjudge the flight of the ball or are completely detached, positionally, from the frame of the goal itself. He’s essentially nullified his own threat at times by failing to exploit central, blind-sided spaces with more dynamic changes of direction.
Even when not in the best position, his aerial prowess is undeniably strong, on the spot or on the run. Unsurprisingly, he’s been a huge weapon in the mixer at corners, as he uses his airtime to effectively guide or rocket the ball goal-wards with precision.
Šeško cuts the mould of an incredibly exciting and intimidating offensive outlet with the way he gathers speed is scary and the number of good positions he inevitably finds himself in
In general, Šeško doesn’t need much wiggle room to get off a convincing shot. Even with his rigid dribbling – that could still better tee up more opportunities – he does a fine job of creating that brief separation on the cut-in. The ebb and flow of these shooting sequences translate impeccably to big, touch-and-finish scenarios inside the box.
From the left, the teen uses good disguise to find both corners with conviction, but from the right side his finishing is much more one-dimensional – over-using the inside of his boot to tamely try and find the far corner, all without regard for what the right shot is.
Squandered tap-in like finishes have also raised minor due to how he overthinks how to arrive at the right time, similar to aforementioned misjudgements. This leads to him leaving his boot out to just make contact rather than directing the ball into any open part of the goal.
Šeško’s defensive work rate is very hot and cold. During counter-presses, if he’s within close proximity, he’ll chase down committedly and aggressively. He does even better when chasing towards the opposition’s goal as he’s great at imposing himself by varying his angles and using his speed to implant doubt.
Similar can be said of his pressing, as he looks to curve his paths well and can be incredibly boisterous, but in both cases can be exploited either by his ill-informed approach or technical deficiencies – using very narrow run paths and body shapes. In set presses, he might scan for an option to cover, but will then be exposed by another he didn’t check for, or by virtue of his approach that is exposable by touches against the grain. Deep of there, he’s only prominent in latching onto whatever loose balls his position affords.
This is magnified even further away from goal. Although the system hasn’t always afforded him ample opportunities to shoot from distance, he’s still been liable to drilling the ball with his head firmly down, hoping for the best rather than picking a spot.
Forecasting Benjamin Šeško's future
Šeško cuts the mould of an incredibly exciting and intimidating offensive outlet. The way he gathers speed is scary and the number of good positions he inevitably finds himself in means it’s unsurprising that he has top Premier League suitors already after him.
The step up the leagues feels inevitable, however, whilst there are certain elements of his game that Salzburg’s system don’t always afford great freedom to, a full season under his belt as a starter could be hugely significant. There are many rough edges to his finishing in particular that need smoothing out if he is to overcome his technical flaws at a higher level.
Šeško’s speed, physicality and positional compliance make him a constant terror to opposition defences in more ways than just off the ground, which is accompanied by a positive work ethic that is supportive of combinative passages.
Šeško’s awareness on the ball hurts his ability to manipulate space, aim for goal with smarter intent, and carry the ball with more confidence. This, combined with general ball-handling rigidness, makes him an unreliable hold-up player.